Robison: Time For Charitable Giving

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(HOST) As the holiday season gets underway and the end of the year approaches, commentator Olin Robison is thinking about the old saying that – ’tis better to give than to receive.

(ROBISON)  Everyone knows, of course, that the last few weeks of the calendar year are critically important to retail stores.  We know this partially because the talking heads on television go on and on about it.  Very little, if anything, however, is said about the fact that it is an equally important time for your favorite non-profit;  your favorite charity, if you will.

It is terribly important that we give generously at this time each year – and especially this year during this economic recession.  Frankly, every non-profit I know of is having a hard time right now.  No exceptions.

We, of course, hear on the news about the big ones such as Harvard, and even they are crying Wolf.  But Harvard is the exception in so many ways.  I recently told the Dean of one of the Harvard schools that no one is sympathetic with them.  They, poor dears, are down to their last $20 billion or so.

Most non-profits, however, are not endowment-dependent.  Most quite literally live hand-to-mouth, depending each year on gifts and whatever income they generate that year.  Most do not even use the word "profit" simply because there is none.

I doubt that anyone knows for sure how many non-profit organizations there are in America; easily a half-million – or even a million, if you count churches – which, in my opinion, you should.  Even the Internal Revenue Service doesn’t know.  Somewhere, someone probably keeps count of all the "new" ones; but no one that I know of keeps count of those that go out of existence, which this year will be many.

I have heard that something like 11% of all jobs in the U.S. are in the non-profit sector.  If that is true (and it probably is) then it is, again, in my opinion, more important than ever right now to support them.

Most of the people working in the non-profit sector are seriously underpaid (not everyone, of course, but most).  And a large percentage of the non-profits depend on a lot of volunteer labor.

I have also noticed that a great many people, when asked, do not define themselves by describing their main job – their "day job," if you will –  but by telling about their volunteer work.  It quite literally gives definition to the lives of many, many people.

The retail stores in your area depend on you right now, but so do the non-profit organizations.

And so, dear friends, this is not the place to try to save.  This year, giving generously – and soon – is more important than ever.

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